Coordinates: 54°54′N 8°20′E / 54.900°N 8.333°E /
Native name: Söl, Sild
September 2013 aerial photograph of Sylt
54°54′N 8°20′E / 54.900°N 8.333°E / 54.900; 8.333
North Frisian Islands
Sylt, Föhr, Amrum
99 km2 (38 sq mi)
38 km (23.6 mi)
13 km (8.1 mi)
52 m (171 ft)
212 /km2 (549 /sq mi)
Germans, Frisians, Danes
Sylt (German pronunciation: [ˈzʏlt]; Danish: Sild;
Frisian: Söl) is an island in northern Germany, part of Nordfriesland
district, Schleswig-Holstein, and well known for the distinctive shape
of its shoreline. It belongs to the
North Frisian Islands
North Frisian Islands and is the
largest island in North Frisia. The northernmost island of Germany, it
is known for its tourist resorts, notably Westerland, Kampen and
Wenningstedt-Braderup, as well as for its 40-kilometre-long (25-mile)
sandy beach. It is frequently covered by the media in connection with
its exposed situation in the
North Sea and its ongoing loss of land
during storm tides. Since 1927,
Sylt has been connected to the
mainland by the
Hindenburgdamm causeway. In latter years, it has been
a resort for the German jet set and tourists in search of occasional
celebrity sighting.
Flora and fauna
2.1 Settlements along the west coast
6 In other media
7 See also
9 External links
satellite image of Sylt
Sylt (North Frisian, German and Danish place names)
With 99.14 square kilometres (38.28 square miles),
Sylt is the
fourth-largest German island and the largest German island in the
Sylt is located from 9 to 16 kilometres (6–10 miles)
off the mainland, to which it is connected by the Hindenburgdamm.
Sylt are the islands of
Föhr and Amrum, to the north
lies the Danish island of Rømø. The island of
Sylt extends for 38
kilometres (24 miles) in a north-south direction. At its northern
point at Königshafen, it is only 320 metres (1,050 feet) wide. Its
greatest width, from the town of Westerland in the west to the eastern
Nössespitze near Morsum, measures 12.6 kilometres (7.8 miles). On the
western and northwestern shore, there is a 40-kilometre-long (25-mile)
sandy beach. To the east of Sylt, is the Wadden Sea, which belongs to
Wadden Sea National Park and mostly falls dry
during low tide.
The island's shape has constantly shifted over time, a process which
is still ongoing today. The northern and southern spits of
exclusively made up of infertile sand deposits, while the central part
with the municipalities of Westerland,
Sylt-Ost consists of a geestland core, which becomes apparent in the
form of the Red Cliff of Wenningstedt. The geestland facing the Wadden
Sea gradually turns into fertile marshland around Sylt-Ost.
only been an island since the
Grote Mandrenke flood of 1362. The
Düne (Uwe Dune) is the island's highest elevation with
52.5 metres (172.2 feet) above sea level.
The island in its current form has only existed for about 400 years.
Like the mainland geestland, it was formed of moraines from the older
ice ages, thus being made up of a till core, which is now apparent in
the island's west and centre by the cliff, dunes and beach. This sandy
core began to erode as it was exposed to a strong current along the
island's steep basement when the sea level rose 8000 years ago. During
the process, sediments were accumulated north and south of the island.
The west coast, which was originally situated 10 kilometres (6 miles)
off today's shore, was thus gradually moved eastward, while at the
same time the island began to extend to the north and south. After the
ice ages, marshland began to form around this geestland core.
Sylt is recorded as an island, yet before the Grote Mandrenke
flood it belonged to a landscape cut by tidal creeks and, at least
during low tide, it could be reached on foot. It is only since this
flood that the creation of a spit from sediments began to form the
current characteristic shape of Sylt. It is the northern and southern
Sylt which were, and still are, the subject of greatest
change. For example, Listland was separated from the rest of the
island in the 14th century and from the later 17th century onwards the
Königshafen (King's Harbour) began to silt up as the "elbow" spit
began to form.
In addition to the constant loss of land, the inhabitants during the
Little Ice Age
Little Ice Age were constrained by sand drift. Dunes shifting to the
east threatened settlements and arable land and had to be stopped by
the planting of marram grass in the 18th century. Consequently,
though, material breaking off the island was increasingly washed away
and the island's extent continued to decrease.
Records of the annual land loss exist since 1870. According to them,
Sylt lost an annual 0.4 metres (16 inches) of land in the north and
0.7 metres (28 inches) in the south from 1870 to 1951. From 1951 to
1984, the rate increased to 0.9 metres (35 inches) and 1.4 metres (55
inches) respectively, while shorelines at the island's very edges at
Hörnum and List are even more affected.
Severe storm surges of the last decades have repeatedly endangered
Sylt to the point of breaking in two, e.g.
Hörnum was temporarily cut
off from the island in 1962. Part of the island near
Rantum which is
only 500m wide is especially threatened.
An armoured concrete groyne at Westerland
Concrete tetrapods in Westerland
Geotextile sand cushions successfully protected the historic house
Sylt against storms, which strongly eroded the cliffs on
the north and south sides of the sand cushion barrier (1999).
Measures of protection against the continuous erosion date back to the
early 19th century when groynes of wooden poles were constructed.
Those were built at right angles into the sea from the coast line.
Later they were replaced by metal and eventually by armoured concrete
groynes. The constructions did not have the desired effect of stopping
the erosion caused by crossways currents. "Leeward erosion", i.e.
erosion on the downwind side of the groynes prevented sustainable
accumulation of sand.
In the 1960s breaking the power of the sea was attempted by installing
tetrapods along the groyne bases or by putting them into the sea like
groynes. The four-armed structures, built in France and many tons in
weight were too heavy for Sylt's beaches and were equally unable to
prevent erosion. Therefore, they were removed from the
beach in 2005.
Since the early 1970s the only effective means so far has been
flushing sand onto the shore.
Dredging vessels are used to pump a
mixture of sand and water to a beach where it is spread by bulldozers.
Thus storm floods would only erase the artificial accumulation of
sand, while the shoreline proper remains intact and erosion is slowed
down. This procedure incurs considerable costs. The required budget
of an annual €10 million is currently provided by federal German,
Schleswig-Holstein state and EU funds. Since 1972 an estimated 35.5
million cubic metres of sand have been flushed ashore and dumped on
Sylt. The measures have so far cost more than €134 million in total,
but according to scientific calculations they are sufficient to
prevent further loss of land for at least three decades, so the
benefits for the island's economic power and for the economically
underdeveloped region in general would outweigh the costs. In the
1995 study Klimafolgen für Mensch und Küste am Beispiel der
Sylt (Climate impact for Man and Shores as seen on the
North Sea island Sylt) it reads: "Hätte
Sylt nicht das Image einer
attraktiven Ferieninsel, gäbe es den Küstenschutz in der bestehenden
Form gewiss nicht" (If
Sylt did not have the image of an attractive
holiday island, coastal management in its current form would certainly
The enforcement of a natural reef off
Sylt is being discussed as an
alternative solution. A first experiment was conducted from 1996 to
2003. A sand drainage as being successfully used on Danish islands
is not likely to work on
Sylt owing to the underwater slope here.
In parallel to the ongoing sand flushing, the deliberate demolition of
groynes has begun amid great effort at certain beach sections where
they were proven largely ineffective. This measure also terminated the
presumably most famous groyne of Sylt, Buhne 16 — the namesake of
the local naturist beach.
A number of experts, however, fears that
Sylt will still have to face
considerable losses of land until the mid 21st century. The continuous
global warming is thought to result in increasing storm activity,
which would result in increased land loss and, as a first impact,
might mean the end of property insurance. Measurements showed that,
unlike in former times, the wave energy of the sea is no longer lost
offshore, today it carries its destructive effects on to the beaches
proper. This will result in an annual loss of sand of 1.1 million
m³. The dunes of the island constitute nature reserves and may
only be traversed on marked tracks. So called "wild paths" promote
erosion and are not to be followed. Where vegetation is tread upon, no
roots are left to hold the sand and it will be removed by wind and
Wadden Sea on the east side between
Sylt and the mainland has been
a nature reserve and bird sanctuary since 1935 and is part of the
Wadden Sea National Park. The construction of
breakwaters in this area will abate sedimentation and is used for land
Also the grazing of sheep on the sea dikes and heaths of Sylt
eventually serves coastal management, since the animals keep the
vegetation short and compress the soil with their hooves. Thus they
help create a denser dike surface, which in case of storm surges
provides less area for the waves to impact.
Flora and fauna
Rosa rugosa, known as "
Sylt rose" on the island
The flora of
Sylt is shaped by the island's original sparseness. Until
the mid 19th century
Sylt was an island almost completely devoid of
trees, only artificial plantations created small areas of forest and
bush. Still today one can recognize the man-made structure of the
Friedrichshain and Südwäldchen forests in Westerland, the trees
mostly standing in rank and file. Also the now widespread rose Rosa
rugosa, known as the "
Sylt rose" on the island was only imported to
Sylt. It originates from the
Kamchatka peninsula in Siberia. The
undemanding rose met ideal conditions on
Sylt and spread so quickly
that it is now a common sight on the island. Its proliferation is
viewed critically from a biological point of view, since it threatens
to displace endangered local species, especially on the heaths.
The ample heaths on the eastern side of the island provide habitats
for many rare species of plants and animals which are adapted to the
extreme conditions such as drought, warmth, wind. About 2,500 animal
species and 150 species of plants have so far been recorded. 45% of
those plants are on the IUCN Red List. Especially notable are the
600 species of butterflies that live in the heaths, small
tortoiseshell, brimstone, painted lady and peacock butterfly among
With several thousand individuals in the dune belt of Sylt, the
natterjack toad, endangered in Germany, has one of Germany's largest
populations here. Their spawning places are wet dune slacks and
shallow, short-lived pools. For a habitat they prefer sandy areas with
vegetation. The main threat for this species on
Sylt is road
The many water birds and other coastal avians, that have their
hatching grounds on
Sylt or use the island for resting on their
migrations constitute an ornithological feature. There are two notable
hatching areas on Sylt, the
Königshafen bay with the small island
Uthörn in the north and the
Rantum basin in the southeast. Birds that
Sylt include black-headed gull, Arctic tern, pied avocet,
common redshank, common gull, oystercatcher, northern lapwing, common
shelduck and tufted duck. During the migration,
Sylt is a resting spot
for thousands of brent geese and shelducks, Eurasian wigeons and
common eiders, as well as bar-tailed godwits, red knots, dunlins and
Eurasian golden plovers. Ringed plover, common snipe, ruff and other
species are less common visitors to the island.
Regarding land mammals, there is no significant difference from the
neighbouring areas of mainland Nordfriesland. Primarily European hare,
rabbit and roe deer can be found and are also hunted as game on the
island. When the island was connected to the mainland by the causeway
fox and badger also became common.
Sylt a breeding area of harbour porpoises is located. In
addition, great numbers of harbour seals and grey seals, the latter
being rather uncommon in German seas, can be found on sand banks off
Numerous associations and societies that care for the exploration and
the protection of endangered animals and plants have their branches on
Sylt. Among them are the Alfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar and Marine
Wadden Sea Conservation Station. Also
the Federal Office for the Environment operates a research station in
the dunes at Westerland.
On Sylt, a marine climate influenced by the
Gulf stream is
predominant. With an average of 2 °C, winter months are slightly
milder than on the mainland, summer months though, with a median of
17 °C, are somewhat cooler, despite a longer sunshine period.
The annual average sunshine period on
Sylt is 4.4 hours per day. It is
due to the low relief of the shoreline that
Sylt had a total of 1,899
hours of sunshine in 2005, 180 hours above the German average.
Clouds cannot accumulate as quickly and are generally scattered by the
constant westerly or northwesterly winds.
The annual mean temperature is 8.5 °C. The annually averaged
wind speed measures 6.7 m/s, predominantly from western
directions. The annual rainfall amounts to about 650 millimetres.
Since 1937 weather data are collected at Deutscher Wetterdienst's
northernmost station on a dune near List, which has meanwhile become
automated. A number of commercial meteorological services like
Meteomedia AG operate stations in List too.
Sylt features an oceanic climate that is influenced by the Gulf
Stream. On average, the winter season is slightly warmer than in
mainland Nordfriesland. The summer season, however, is cooler despite
of longer sunshine periods. The yearly average sunshine period is
greater than 4.4 hours per day with some years exceeding the average
sunshine for all of Germany. Also precipitation is lower than on the
mainland. This is due to the low relief of Sylt's shoreline where
clouds are not able to accumulate and rain off.
Climate data for List (1961–1990 averages)
Daily mean °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Mean monthly sunshine hours
Source: German Meteorological Service
Climate data for List, (1990–2014 averages)
Daily mean °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Mean monthly sunshine hours
view from a hotel room in Westerland
The red cliff next to Kampen, Sylt
Sylt is divided into two administrative bodies: the Amt Landschaft
Sylt administrates all municipalities on the island, save for the
Sylt which was established in 2009 from the formerly
independent municipalities of Westerland,
Rantum and Sylt-Ost. As of
Sylt had 21,190 inhabitants, 9,072 of whom living in
Westerland. These numbers do not include owners of summer
A referendum held in May 2008 resulted in a merger of the Sylt-Ost
municipality with the town of Westerland on 1 January 2009.
Various interest groups hope to merge every island municipality into
one governing body.
Settlements along the west coast
Six municipalities are situated along the west coast of Sylt. List in
the very north of the island constitutes Germany's northernmost
municipality, it retained a certain independence due to its remote
location and its long-time adherence to the kingdom of Denmark. On its
eastern shore, a harbour is located where, in addition to tourist
ships, the "Sylt-Express" ferry-boat sails to Havneby on the Danish
island Rømø. Wenningstedt together with Braderup and Kampen used to
form the Norddörfer (Northern Villages) municipality, an early
intercommunal association, which partly remains today in form of a
school union. While Kampen, mainly in the 1950s and 1960s was famous
Germany for attracting celebrities, Wenningstedt has been known as
a "family resort" for more than 100 years. Since 1855, the prominent
black and white Kampen lighthouse is located between Kampen and
Wenningstedt, it is the oldest one on the island. East of there, the
Braderuper Heide nature reserve is situated. Right south of
Wenningstedt are the town limits of the island's largest town,
After the complete destruction of the village Eidum by a storm surge
on 1 November 1436, the survivors founded a new village northeast of
their old home: Westerland. The name was first recorded in 1462. In
1865 a seaside spa was founded, 50 years later Westerland was granted
town privileges. In 1949 it was officially recognised as a health
resort. In 2007, the town counted 9,072 citizens.
South of Westerland, the island extends for about 15 km in the
form of a spit, until it is cut by the Hörnumtief tidal creek, that
runs through the
Wadden Sea mudflats east of Sylt. Here is the
location of Rantum. This village, like no other on Sylt, had to fight
sand drift during the past centuries. Many farmsteads and a church had
to be abandoned because of shifting dunes moving eastward. Only the
planting of marram grass stopped the dunes and put an end to this
threat. To the east there are a few scattered spots of marshland,
while the area is mostly dominated by dunes.
Hörnum on the island's southern headland is the youngest village,
having been founded shortly after 1900. But already in former times
the uninhabited southern tip of
Sylt was said to serve as refuge for
pirates and fishermen. The name Budersand in the area emanates from
that custom, marking a great dune where booths (German: Buden) stood
in former times to serve as shelters. This southern headland,
called Odde, is marked by continuous loss of land. Each year great
amounts of sand are washed away by storm floods and coastal management
has not yet seen sustainable effects in the area, so that further
losses have to be expected.
Main article: Sylt-Ost
Sylt-Ost (East Sylt) is a former municipality which was formed in 1970
out of several small villages on the Nössehalbinsel of Sylt. The
population (as of 2000) was 5,500. The villages included Tinnum,
Morsum and Keitum. In 2009,
Sylt-Ost merged with
Rantum to form Gemeinde Sylt.
Sylt was originally part of Jutland (today
Schleswig-Holstein and mainland Denmark), with evidence of human
habitation going back to 3000 BC at Denghoog. The first settlements of
Frisians appeared during the 8th century and 9th century. In 1386,
Sylt was divided between the Duke of Schleswig and the King of
Denmark; except for the village of List,
Sylt became part of the Duchy
of Schleswig in 1435.
During the 17th and 18th century, whaling, fishing and oyster breeding
increased the wealth of the population. At this time,
the capital of the island, and a place for rich captains to settle
down. In the 19th century, tourism began. Westerland replaced Keitum
as the capital. During World War I,
Sylt became a military outpost. On
25 March 1916 British seaplanes bombed the
German[better source needed] airship sheds on Sylt. The
main connection for tourists was boats from Højer. Since
Denmark in 1920, a rail causeway to the mainland was built in
1927, the Hindenburgdamm, named after Paul von Hindenburg. During
World War II,
Sylt became a fortress, with concrete bunkers built
below the dunes at the shore, some of which are still visible today.
Lager Sylt, the concentration camp on
Alderney was named after the
Rudolf Höss hid on the island after Nazi Germany's defeat,
but he was later captured and brought to trial in Poland.
Windsurf World Cup
Sylt in 2006
Sylt is mainly a tourist destination, famous for its sandy
beaches and healthy climate. The 40 km-long (25 mi) west
beach has a number of surf schools and also a nude section. The
Windsurf World Cup Sylt, established in 1984, is annually held at
Westerland's beach front.
Sylt is also popular for second home owners,
and many German celebrities who own vacation homes on "the island".
Sylt is a part of the Frisian Islands. It has its own local dialect,
Söl'ring, which is the indigenous speech of Sylt.
Söl'ring is a
dialect of insular North Frisian, with elements of Danish, Dutch and
English. Today, only a small fraction of the population still speak
Söl'ring. A law to promote the language (Friesisch-Gesetz) was passed
in 2004. The northernmost part of the island, Listland, was
As in many areas in
Schleswig-Holstein on New Year's Eve, groups of
children go masked from house to house, reciting poems. This is known
as "Rummelpottlaufen", and as a reward, children receive sweets and/or
Sylt also features many Frisian-style houses with thatched roofs.
The vowel sound in the name of the island is represented in standard
written German as "y" for unknown reasons, whereas the expected
spelling of the name would be "Sült".
Sylt is connected to the German mainland by the Hindenburgdamm, a
causeway with a railway line on top. The passenger trains connect
Westerland (Sylt) to
Niebüll or Klanxbüll, and the Deutsche Bahn's
"Syltshuttle" as well as RDC's "Autozug Sylt", allow the transfer of
cars and trucks between Westerland and Niebüll. There are also ferry
services to the nearby Danish island of Rømø.
Sylt Airport at
Westerland serves the region.
In other media
The island was used during the filming of The Ghost Writer, as an
alternate location for Martha's Vineyard, due to the film's director,
Roman Polanski being unable to travel to the United States, due to an
outstanding arrest warrant for rape. The ferry between the islands of
Rømø features prominently in the film.
Üüs Söl’ring Lön’, insular anthem
Heinz Reinefarth, a Nazi-German military officer. The "Butcher of
Warsaw" became mayor of Westerland after World War II.
^ a b Kehl, H. "Entstehung der Insel
Sylt im Laufe von 700 Jahren" (in
German). Institute of Ecology, Technical University Berlin.
^ a b Thiede, J; K. Ahrendt (2000). "Klimaänderung und Küste –
Fallstudie Sylt" (PDF) (in German). GEOMAR, University of Kiel.
^ Landesamt für den Nationalpark Schleswig-Holsteinisches Wattenmeer,
Umweltbundesamt, ed. (1998). Umweltatlas Wattenmeer (Wadden Sea
environmental Atlas) (in German). I – Nordfriesisches und
Dithmarscher Wattenmeer. Stuttgart. p. 38.
^ Müller, W. W.; Saathoff, F. (2015). "Geosynthetics in
geoenvironmental engineering". Science and Technology of Advanced
Materials. 16 (3): 034605. doi:10.1088/1468-6996/16/3/034605.
^ Witte, J.-O.; Kohlhase, Sören, J. Radomski, P. Fröhle. "Fallstudie
Sylt" (PDF) (in German). University of Rostock. Archived from the
original on 10 August 2007. CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors
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Maßnahmen" (PDF) (in German). Technical University of Harburg.
Archived from the original on 11 June 2007. CS1 maint: Unfit url
^ Daschkeit, Achim; Horst Sterr. "Küste, Ökologie und Mensch,
Integriertes Küstenmanagement als Instrument nachhaltiger
Entwicklung". In Bernhard Glaeser. Edition Humanökologie (PDF). 2.
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Humanökologie.
^ Daschkeit, Achim; Peter Schottes (2002). Klimafolgen für Mensch und
Küste am Beispiel der Nordseeinsel
Sylt (in German). Springer.
^ Bleck, Matthias. "Funktionale Bemessung künstlicher Riffe für
aktiven und sanften Küstenschutz" (PDF). Stiftung deutscher
Küstenschutz. [dead link]
^ Newig, J. "Sand auf Sylt" (PDF). University of Kiel.
^ a b "Interessantes über die Braderuper Heide" (in German).
Naturschutzgemeinschaft Sylt. Archived from the original on 17
February 2012. CS1 maint: Unfit url (link)
^ "Morsum-Kliff" (in German). Naturschutzgemeinschaft Sylt. Archived
from the original on 17 February 2012. CS1 maint: Unfit url
^ Klinge, Andreas (2003). "Die Amphibien und Reptilien
Schleswig-Holsteins, Rote Liste" (PDF). 3rd version (in German).
Schleswig-Holstein State Office for Nature and Environment.
^ Lohmann, M.; K. Haarmann. Vogelparadiese (in German). 1 –
Norddeutschland. Paul Parey. ISBN 3-490-16418-0.
^ "Tourimusstatistik 2005" (PDF) (in German). Town of
^ "List auf
Sylt (climate chart)". Bernhard Mühr. 1 June 2007.
^ "Das Wetter auf Sylt: viel Sonne und eine frische Brise" [The
Weather on Sylt: A lot of Sunshine and a fresh Breeze]. Zeit Reisen
(in German). Retrieved 23 October 2012.
^ "Frei zugängliche Klimadaten" (in German). German Meteorological
^ "CLimate Robot List/Sylt". WeatherOnline.co.uk.
^ "Orte, Städte, Gemeinden im Landkreis Nordfriesland" (in German).
Deutschland auf einen Blick.
^ "Westerland und
Sylt-Ost fusionieren". Sylter Rundschau (in German).
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^ "Der Fahrplan zur Teilfusion: So geht es jetzt weiter". Sylter
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^ Pahl, Max (1983). Hörnum. Heimat am Horn – Querschnitt und
Streifzüge durch Geschichte, Leben und Landschaft des Nordseebades
Sylt (in German). Lunden: Verlagsdruckerei
^ "First World War.com Day by day". First World War.com. Retrieved 27
^ "Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State. Auschwitz 1940–1945. Liberation
& Revenge". PBS.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sylt.
Sylt travel guide from Wikivoyage
West Frisian Islands
East Frisian Islands
Langlütjen I & II
North Frisian Islands
Wadden Sea Islands